Friday, May 15, 2009 | By: Zachary Bartels

Reformed or Not?

This morning, my buddy Ted Kluck (yeah, I drop names like Driscoll drops F-bombs) showed me a piece of a brilliant book proposal that he's putting together, the content of which is probably top secret. I can tell you this, though--it involves Ted taking advantage of my vault-full of bad '80s and '90s CCM paraphernalia. As such, the proposal made a passing reference to me, calling me a "reformed pastor."

Lower-case r. reformed.

Suits me just fine, although I don't introduce myself as such because my denominational affiliation is Baptist and, even though I have more theologically in common with most Reformed (capital R) ministers than most modern-day Baptists, to call myself such in a non-case-specific, aural context would just be confusing.

This stirs up in my mind the debate of late among the new Calvinists. Can you be "reformed" without believing in infant baptism? I would guess that the Reformed Baptist denomination would place their ballot firmly in the "yes" box, and so would I. Others--particularly those cats at Westminster Seminary California--strenuously disagree. In fact, at the Magnifying God Conference, Mr. YoungRestlessReformed himself, Collin Hansen, told us that Dr. Michael Horton had, during an interview all but forbidden him from using the term "reformed" as a self-designation (as Hansen is not a paedo-baptist).

Then, just a moment ago, I was preparing materials for my membership class this Sunday, when I came across the following chart:

I don't know what book it comes from (just that it's apparently #44); I got it from my friend Dr. Michael Wittmer (more name dropping; cf. my lateral dropping of Ted's name on Mike's current blog post.). But if the chart is an accurate (if overly simplistic) representation of the "family tree," then anyone from a Methodist to a Baptist to an Amish dude can claim to be Reformed (with or without the capital), because that's the branch of the Reformation from which we come. Of course, this has been argued before thousands of times, but to see something like this laid out visually--for me--is more compelling.

What I find strange is that Reformed Proper folks don't seem to mind credo-baptists referring to themselves as "Calvinists." (edit: some do have a problem with this, like this guy). To me, that's a much more specific term than "reformed." Why don't they insist that we follow every point of doctrine in the Institutes if we are to use that particular label? Maybe because they don't either...

4 reader comments:

Joe said...

To me, Reformed and Credo-Baptist, in the same sentence is a bit of a oxymoron.

When I hear Reformed or Calvinist, I think that person is chasing down the Bible and keeps the Bible in high regard.

When I hear Credo-Baptist, I think that person doesn't know their bible so well and rather put the weight of their faith upon traditions upheld by humans rather than the Word of God.

Am I wrong?

ZSB said...

I shall prove it in four steps:
1. Read every reference to and instance of baptism in the New Testament.
2. Write down each one that involves the baptism of a believer (credo-baptism)
3. Write down each one that involves the baptism of an infant (paedo-baptism).
4. Tell me which "put[s] the weight of their faith upon traditions upheld by humans."

humanitasremedium said...

that chart is great! I am agree that unless yuo are going to really follow what calvin laid out you shouldn't call yourself a calvinist. I say that I am reformed in my view of sal.

mikewittmer said...


I do get annoyed when my Reformed friends, who I completely identify with and consider my friends, suggest that I am "insufficiently Reformed" because I don't believe in infant baptism. I want to tell them to get over themselves already.